Antiques expert Allan Blackburn looks at the links between a cult TV show and pottery...
If someone mentions Portmeirion, I, like so many others of my generation instantly think of the cult television series that made the Portmeirion “Village” so famous.
I loved “The Prisoner” show and always picture Patrick McGoohan desperately trying to escape, so it’s hard to connect it to this beautiful pottery!
However, would you believe, there is a very strong link between the Portmeirion Village and Portmeirion Pottery.
The famous architect and gentleman responsible for the amazing buildings used as the location for the hit 1960s television series was Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, and it was his daughter Susan Williams-Ellis along with her husband Euan Cooper-Willis that set up Portmeirion Pottery.
Founded in 1960, Susan and Euan took over a small pottery company called A E Gray Ltd.
Susan had already been working there for some time, decorating pieces that had beared the mark “Gray’s Pottery”. She also commissioned designs which she later went on to sell in the gift shop in her father’s village.
A year later the couple bought a manufacturing company called Kirkhams Ltd. The manufacture together with decorating meant that Portmeirion Potteries was born. Arguably the most popular range (it is still made and sells well today) is the Botanical range which was decorated with a variety of beautiful, delicate, floral illustrations onto pure white china. It was launched in 1972 and its popularity amongst collectors has never waned. This was just one of many ranges Susan created, others being the Magic City, Magic Garden and Crazy Daisy– again all tying into her father’s radical and magical vision of fantasy.
Regular readers of my columns will know that Royal Worcester is one my favourite potteries and in April 2009 Portmeirion purchased both Royal Worcester and Spode brands after they went into administration.
Since then the company name has changed to reflect these acquisitions and is now known as The Portmeirion Group. They continue to produce beautiful pieces of porcelain, all gorgeously decorated.
You can still buy them from the gift shop in the village, but luckily, if you’re not a “Prisoner” fan, their wares are now available all over the world!